/News 22.02.21


After receiving endless praise for their work on The Dry and Penguin Bloom, the Soundfirm team describe what it meant to work on High Ground.

In their first pre-production meeting, it was clear High Ground’s Director, Stephen Johnson was very enthusiastic about the sound design of High Ground. The initial conversation was about embracing the sounds of the land – so much so he didn’t want it masked by a typical Western music score. All the music in the film is indigenous songs interspersed with birdsong and other natural sounds. 

Post-shoot the film editorial team and Stephen were working at Soundfirm Melbourne. Chris Goodes, Sound Supervisor, Sound Designer and Re-recording Mixer, was finishing other films while they were cutting, so he was able to have meetings with Stephen and talk though ideas/concepts. A large part of these discussions were around the birds in the film. Birds and other wildlife carry significant cultural and spiritual meaning in indigenous culture. 

Courtesy of Bunya Productions, Savage Films & Soundfirm

Witiyana Marika is a Producer and Actor in the film, and is also the film’s Senior Cultural Advisor. Goodes met with him and whilst researching on Kakadu wildlife websites, they found lists of birds with pictures and reference sound clips. They went through all the birds and discussed the meaning and significance of each.

“I was able to create a database of bird calls from our extensive sound library, online boutique fx libraries, location shoot rolls and some subsequent recordings by Liesl Pieterse when she went up to record ADR with the indigenous cast members in Arnhem Land. The bird calls (and a few other animals) were then broken down into different meanings, emotions and messages”.

Chris Goodes, Sound Supervisor, Sound Designer and Re-recording Mixer, Soundfirm

Goodes supplied picture editorial with these sounds and a document outlining the meanings discussed with Witiyana. They were able to use these sounds during temp screenings which helped fill out the film sonically in lieu of a temp score. Once the picture edit was complete and the sound post started they experimented more with abstract sounds created from Yidaki recordings; creating different sonic textures through some of the violent scenes. 

Arriving at the mix they had many layers of atmospheric sounds – winds, water, trees blowing, etc sculpted by sound FX editor Luke Millar, then on top of this very detailed bed Chris was able to layer/spot the birds. Every bird call in the film was a considered decision.

“Stephen wanted the film to have an aural underscore that would most likely go unnoticed by many in the western audience, but to an indigenous audience would carry meaning and emotion. The end product is a vibrant, detailed and uniquely rich soundtrack”.

Chris Goodes, Sound Supervisor, Sound Designer and Re-recording Mixer, Soundfirm

For John Kerron, Senior Online Editor & VFX Artist at Soundfirm on High Ground, it is always exciting to work with Directors and Producers who have a true dedication and drive for their project. He said, “it is enormously satisfying to collaborate in creative decisions to help enhance a film and assist the Director in producing their vision”.

“I simply love working at Soundfirm. Every-time I walk in the door with a project I know I’m in the best of hands. The support, the commitment to detail, the passion, the technology and the creativity is endless. Roger, Helen and the team are amazing and a big call out to Chris Goodes for his wonderful work on High Ground. Thank you all so very much”.

Stephen Johnson, Director, High Ground

Kerron calls himself “a bit of a perfectionist”, as it is very important to him that his clients leave his edit suite knowing that their film has been completed and finished to the highest level and that no one stone has been left unturned.

Courtesy of Bunya Productions, Savage Films & Soundfirm

“It was incredibly valuable to High Ground to have so much post-activity happening under one roof. Finalising any film is a small miracle and the multi-talented Soundfirm team played a huge role in that”.

Maggie Miles, Producer, High Ground

Kerron felt that it was a joy to work with Director Stephen Johnson. He said, “his enthusiasm and passion for his project was infectious, and his attention to detail, and appreciation of the finishing process made working on High Ground so gratifying for me”.

High Ground was shot on location in the Kakadu National Park and in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The film received financing from Screen Australia, Maxo Studios, Screen Territory, Bunya Productions, Film Victoria and Savage Films.

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